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Media: Press Clips

Environmentalists call for governor to close loophole

November 24, 1998

By Renae Merle

AUSTIN (AP) — Environmentalists delivered about 15,000 postcards to Gov. George W. Bush Monday asking him to close a loophole that allows some of Texas' oldest industrial facilities to escape state regulations.

"Grandfathered facilities in the Houston/Galveston region emit as much smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions as over three million cars," said Debra Gallington, a member of Houston-based Citizen Clean Air Project.

The postcards, sponsored by the Sierra Club, include a statement that "clean air to breathe is essential for my family. ... I'm counting on you to do all you can to protect the air in our great city - Houston - for our family, for our future."

Karen Hughes, spokesman for Bush, said the groups aren't taking into consideration progress that Bush has spearheaded.

"The air is cleaner in Texas today because of the leadership of Gov. Bush," Ms. Hughes said.

Older facilities are not obligated to meet Texas Clean Air Act requirements that the ``best available control technologies'' be used if they were built or being built before 1971. They were excluded, or "grandfathered" from stricter new laws.

Some power industry officials have supported a voluntary program for removing the grandfather protection, and the 1995 Legislature instructed the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to draft such a plan for voluntary compliance.

That's not enough, said Peter Altman, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition. The voluntary plan "has no goals, it fails to protect public health and all it really does is leave a lethal loophole wide open," Altman said.

Ms. Hughes countered that the voluntary program has been successful.

"Under the voluntary program more than 50 companies have committed to reduce emissions," she said.

"Rather than criticizing, this group should be complimenting Gov. Bush for his leadership."

The state's more than 1,600 major industrial sources produced 2.5 million tons of air emissions in 1997 with the grandfathered plants comprising 899,614 tons of those emissions, or 36 percent, according to a recent study by the TNRCC.


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